Textura Magazine

Jan Kraybill: The Orchestral Organ 
Reference Recordings

During the 1800s, significant advances in organ design enabled organists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to produce transcriptions of orchestral pieces that could legitimately claim to rival their counterparts in tone colour and detail. To be sure, the transcription wasn't conceived as a replacement for the original but rather as a means by which to experience it differently and hear it with fresh ears. On The Orchestral Organ, Dr. Jan Kraybill performs organ transcriptions of material by Sibelius, Holst, Wagner, Verdi, Barber, and others, and while many of the works are familiar, they assume vivid new life when presented in this organ-only context.

It's not just any organ, either: on the seventy-four-minute release, Kraybill, Organ Conservator at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, and Organist-in-Residence at the international headquarters of Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri, performs the eleven pieces using the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ at the Kauffman Center's Helzberg Hall. The parts for the pipe organ were produced at the Casavant Frères workshop in Quebec and then transported to Kansas City, where four months of installation and testing were required before the organ, which boasts four keyboards for hands and one for feet, seventy-nine stops, and 102 ranks (of its 5,548 pipes, the biggest is thirty-two feet tall, the smallest the size of a pencil), could be deemed ready. The multiple keyboards, of course, allow the organist to generate a huge range of textures, including contrapuntal and homophonic.

Adding to the release's appeal, the pieces by Tchaikovsky, Holst, and Wagner are premiere recordings of the organ transcriptions, and Emil von Reznícek's is a world premiere. Representative of the album are the treatments of Barber's Adagio for Strings and Sibelius's Finlandia; being so well-known, they offer case studies for how effectively the transcriptions enable the listener to experience familiar material in a new way. In its 1949-published transcription, Barber's best-known piece retains all of the ceremonial grandeur and pathos for which it's become famous, and the power the Helzberg Hall organ's capable of generating is effectively shown in the declamatory chords that appear after the methodically winding ascent that climaxes two-thirds of the way in. Of course, with the piece known for its strings scoring rather than full orchestra (more precisely, it first appeared as the second movement in Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11, after which Toscanini conducted the string orchestra version during a 1938 radio broadcast), Barber's setting allows perhaps for a more seamless translation than others on the release. The 1907 transcription of Sibelius's 1900 tone poem retains the drama and robustness of the original, and the stately, hymn-like closing section exudes all the poignancy of a strong orchestral performance.

Tchaikovsky's Coronation March, which grew out of a commission to write a grand ceremonial march and a cantata to grace the coronation of Tsar Alexandr III (1845-1894), is as declamatory and spirited as one would expect, the organ, with its ample resources of colour and contrast, again proving itself an ideal vehicle for the music's expression. A march of a slightly different kind is heard in the 1884 transcription of Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette, a macabre yet lighthearted romp the Faust composer wrote in 1872 and which later became famously known as the musical material used in Alfred Hitchcock's television show. One final march concludes the recording, an 1885 transcription of Verdi's “Grand March” from Aïda, which premiered fourteen years earlier. The piece, which appears in Act II when the Egyptian warrior Rhadames returns to Thebes after his victory over the Ethiopians, is suitably triumphant in tone, the organ in this instance evoking the sound of trumpets and the magnificent spectacle of chariots, banners, and elephants.

In being based on medieval English carols, Holst's “Chaconne” from his three-movement Suite No.1 in E-flat Major, for Military Band (1909) lends itself superbly to an organ treatment, the transcription of the work's opening part in this case published in 1933 and recorded for the first time by Kraybill. Much the same could be said of the 1911 rendering of Wagner's “Forest Murmurs” from Siegfried, which shows the organ's capacity for tone painting and its ability to evoke the sounds of birds chirping and a rustling forest. Also included on the release are performances of a 1922-published treatment of Saint-Saëns' stirring “Romance” from his Orchestral Suite in D, Op.49 and an 1885 transcription of Mendelssohn's sprightly “Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Among the lesser-known works is Reznícek'sPraeludium and Chromatic Fugue, at almost fourteen minutes the longest piece. Originally written for large orchestra, Reznícek himself created the organ transcription for this adventurous, ever-winding travelogue in 1920 and published it a year later (it's, in fact, the only transcription on the recording done by the composer himself). Rounding out the presentation is the effervescent Praeludium, written by Finnish-born Swedish composer Edvard Armas Järnefelt in 1900 and transcribed for organ nineteen years later. Regardless of whether the material is familiar or not, Kraybill faithfully adheres to the works' transcriptions, her primary focus on honouring the material as written and staying true in her performances to the character and dynamics of the original creations.

July 2019

The Kansas City Star

CD Review:  "From Jan Kraybill at Helzberg Hall to an André Previn box set, listen to these albums"

Here’s a look at some new noteworthy albums, including two by local artists.


Organist Jan Kraybill is a local treasure whose previous recordings on the audiophile Reference Recordings label have garnered acclaim from critics around the world. Kraybill has just released a new CD, and it will add to her renown.

"The Orchestral Organ" is a stunner. Imagine some of classical music’s most powerful orchestral works performed on Helzberg Hall’s Casavant organ. If you think that sounds good on paper, wait until you actually hear the recording. Kraybill, who is also the conservator of the Casavant organ, is a one-woman orchestra whose renditions of Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Sibelius will leave you slack-jawed.

Among the pieces were a couple of works new to me. Emil von Reznicek’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor is a showpiece by the composer of the popular “Dona Diana” overture. A prelude by Finnish composer Edvard Armas Jarnefelt is a good-natured jaunt.

Reference Recordings has now made several recordings in Helzberg Hall, so the engineers know how to capture the hall’s spaciousness and pristine acoustics, which are absolutely stunning on the Super Audio iteration. But even on a regular old CD player, “The Orchestral Organ” will knock the socks off any music lover, even those who claim they don’t like organ music.

(Other recent releases reviewed in this article included The Kansas City Chorale's "Artifacts: The Music of Michael McGlynn," Isabelle Faust and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin's 2-disc set of J.S. Bach Violin Concertos, and Sony Classics' box set "Classic André Previn.")

Positive Feedback

CD Review:  "Brief Impressions:  Jan Kraybill, The Orchestral Organ"

While I don't do music reviews on a regular basis, there are times when a particular album really strikes me, and I have to say something…usually brief, but definite.

This is one of those times.

I just received a new SACD from my friends at Reference Recordings. Jan Mancuso has been my long-time contact there, and she's been faithful over many years now in keeping me in touch with the latest from RR. I have LPs, SACDs, and even their HRx 176.4kHz/24-bit DVD Audio discs and their HDCD™ discs from back when…we have a real library of RR recordings here!

The constant through them all has been "Professor" Keith Johnson as the audio engineer par excellence who, along with company founder Tam Henderson, have been the guiding spirits of RR over time.

I do really love organ music, but have heard some bad organ recordings. Generally, it's either a question of a performance that leaves me cold, and/or a mediocre recording, and/or a less-than-alluring venue, and/or (more commonly) a selection of music that does nothing for me. There are more ways to go wrong than right with the organ, you see.

I'm delighted to say that Dr. Jan Kraybill's selections, her performance, the instrument and venue (the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ at the Kauffman Center's Helzberg Hall in Kansas City), and the quality of this SACD evidences none of the above kisses of death. Her biography and notes on this recording will be found at her hyperlinked name above.

And just check out this repertoire!

Tchaikovsky Coronation March* (5:58)

Barber Adagio for Strings (9:55)

Gounod Funeral March of a Marionette (5:22)

Holst Chaconne, from First Suite for Military Band, Op. 28, No. 1* (5:16)

Sibelius Finlandia (8:50)

Řezníček Praeludium and Chromatic Fugue** (13:39)

Saint-Saëns Romance, from Orchestral Suite in D, Op. 49 (6:03)

Wagner Forest Murmurs, from Siegfried* (4:23)

Mendelssohn Scherzo, from A Midsummer Night's Dream (6:23)

Järnefelt Praeludium for small orchestra (3:10)

Verdi Grand March, from Aïda

* First Recording

** World Premiere

This is a wonderful collection of music. I was quite pleased by all of them, but can give a special tip o' my hat to the Barber, the Gounod, the Sibelius, the…what the heck! No point in making this list; I liked them all!

Kraybill's performance has a nice balance of verve and control. The overall impression is of joy and pleasure in the music, which flows from her understanding and touch. Her selections allow her to explore various moods and emotions, which is always quite pleasant. The progression of the album shows a sound sense of movement. Well done.

My first audition was in our downstairs multi-channel room, which is well-vaulted, and spacious. From the first strains of RR's recording of Kraybill, both Lila and I were entranced by the music. In fact, given some of my past disappointments with a few organ albums, I was pleased (and relieved!) to be enjoying what I was hearing. The quality the surround sound was really excellent, and it filled our room in a lovely way.

For the record, our surround system features the following:  The player is an Oppo 205 4K universal player, outputting to our Linn Kisto Surround Controller, which sends the surround signal to a pair of Linn 5125 six-channel amps wired in bi-amped mode. These send the signal to a pair of Linn Akurate 242 speakers (left/right front), the Akurate 225 center channel speaker, and a pair of Linn 212 speakers for the left right rear. The subwoofer output goes to a Paradigm SUB25 powered sub with 15" driver. We have Furutech handling the power conditioning and distribution via a pair of Daytona 303. Synergistic Research has provided an Atmosphere XL4 for ambience control, a set of MiG 2.0 footers, a Synergistic Research Grounding Block, and a set of HFT enhancement devices. The results are quite spacious and well balanced, with lovely enveloping sound, dialed in by the Atmospere XL4. (For more on my current reference systems, click on my hyperlinked name…my byline…at the top of any of my essays or reviews.)

My first notes from that listening session really do say it.

"We are listening to the DSD 5.1 now in our multi-channel room. My first impression is that this is a truly glorious recording, with Jan Kraybill providing stellar performances. I love the repertoire; not a "so what?!" in the entire bunch! The surround recording is done with real feeling and technical virtuosity in the audio arts. The sense of space and realistic decay is quite fine, and draws you into the room to sit and listen. This is a truly exemplary organ recording, one that I will listen to again and again."

I've since listened to this SACD in stereo mode on our upstairs reference system…Playback Designs MPT-8 and MPD-8 for the source, each with a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base,  Nelson Pass Xs Preamp and Xs 150 Monoblock Amplifiers, with the Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF, Active Grounding, UEF Interconnects,  and Atmosphere Infinity in place, all feeding a pair of Evolution Acoustics Micro One Monitors at the current time.

While the stereo version on the SACD doesn't have the same sense of envelopment that the surround version in 5.1 does, the quality of the performance and the emotional connection with the music is still there.

Kraybill has definitely demonstrated virtuosity and soul in her performance, and this RR SACD delivers the goods in an exemplary way. Many thanks to Dr. Kraybill and the team at Reference Recordings for renewing my faith in the possibilities of contemporary organ recordings! If you love organ music the way that I do, and especially if you have a surround system, then you simply must not miss this SACD.

Enough said!

Audiophile Audition

The Orchestral Organ: Jan Kraybill performs arrangements of works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Edward Armas Järnefelt, Emil von Řezníček, Felix Mendelssohn, Giuseppe Verdi, Gustav Holst, Jean Sibelius, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Wagner, Samuel Barber

Musical transcriptions are nothing new. Originally written for piano, Ravel transcribed Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition into a popular piece for orchestra, performed far more frequently than the original piano version.

This fine sounding SACD goes the other way, taking orchestral music and turning it into works for Organ. These transcriptions aren’t new. For years, centuries even, popular music has been transcribed, often because there weren’t the resources available for an orchestral performance, but there was always a handy piano or organ.

Organist Jan Kraybill is up to the task of performing these transcriptions. She is a musical leader, performer, educator, organ consultant, and enthusiastic advocate for the power of music to change lives for the better. She is Organ Conservator at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, and Organist-in-Residence at the international headquarters of Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri.

In these roles she plays and oversees the care of three of the Kansas City metro area’s largest pipe organs: the 113-rank Aeolian-Skinner and 102-rank Casavant organs in Community of Christ’s Auditorium and Temple, and the 102-rank Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant at the Kauffman Center’s Helzberg Hall, where The Orchestral Organ was recorded.

I listened to the 5.1 rendering of these tracks and the sound was thrilling. The organ is big and brawny, the performances are precise and committed, and Reference Recording has done their usual audiophile magic. The lower pipes of the organ are very deep, and will test your system, especially if you have a subwoofer.

Track selection is varied, with classical standards and a more contemporary work like the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. I thought it worked nicely for organ. I also especially enjoyed the Sibelius Finlandia, which was stirring and joyful.  Of particular note — this release contains many “first recordings”, as well as the world premier of Řezníček’s Praelusium and Chromatic Fugue.

Musically and technically this disc is worth a listen, and frequent replays.

KC Metropolis

... this performance featured ... organist Jan Kraybill, who is a master at bringing out delicate colors and beautiful effects through the instrument.

The Audio Voice magazine

Camille Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3, "Organ"

... If you want the very best in sound quality and a first-rate reading of Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, you can't go wrong here.  With modern sonics and a performance comparable with Munch's 1959 BSO recording or Eugene Ormandy's performance with E. Power Biggs, it is truly a sonic blockbuster and a performance tour de force.


Organ Polychrome — The French School [Jan Kraybill] High-Resolution DVD-R Review

In her debut recital for Reference Recordings, organist Jan Kraybill takes on a new instrument, the Julia Irene Kaufmann Organ at the Kaufmann Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. Ms. Kaufmann is Principal Organist for the Dome and Spire Organ Foundation and Organ Conservator at the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts. With such credentials, her recitals would be highly anticipated events and this HRx hi-res disc proves to be no exception.

This program features a collection of organ works from the Neo-Renaissance of French organ music that encompassed the first half of the 20th century, the exceptions being the late 19th century contributions by Cesar Franck and Felix-Alexandre Guilmant. Ms. Kraybill’s adventurous program dives right in with Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony No. 6, one of many of this composer’s works that extends the limits of the organ’s range. ...

This is organ playing at its finest and Ms. Kraybill is blessed with a most wonderful instrument. The French school of organ composition is well represented by some of its finest exponents, a number of whom were organists themselves. Of note, the organ in these performances, the Casavant Freres Opus 3875 would have been the ideal instrument for these works and is well exploited in this recital.

The Album - 5 stars

Audio Quality - 4-1/2 stars

The Keith Johnson recording team takes advantage of the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts’ Helzberg Hall for this production. ... From top to bottom, Ms. Kraybill’s performance gets the “star” treatment and this is one recording that is quite faithful to this organ’s sonorities.

Overall - 4-1/2 stars

I cannot think of a better way to introduce listeners to what was surely the golden age of French music for the organ. Perhaps not since Johann Sebastian Bach, has this “king of instruments” been better served by one nation and its composers than has France and its illustrious composers who wrote marvelous pieces for the organ. Of course, it takes an extraordinary artist to get this point across, and I am happy to report that Reference Recordings has surely identified such a performer. Coupled with the expected excellent RR sonics, I would recommend this disc for not only lovers of organ music but of great music, period.

Classical Net

CD Review:  Saint-Saens

Are we having fun yet? This is yet another fantastic disc. The Kansas City Symphony is one of America's finest ensembles, though rarely is that mentioned. And Michael Stern is one of America's finest conductors, though nobody mentions that either. ... continues to gift the market with award-winning releases.

... Stern gives his excellent first-desk soloists a chance to shine. The Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso sparkles here, and in outstanding sound. Concertmaster Geller is joined by Principal Cellist Mark Gibbs for La muse et le poéte, a concerted work that's completely new to me. ...

The "Organ" Symphony seems to be a favorite on disc right now. Naxos has already released two fine versions in 2015, but neither sounds quite this good. This is not a work that functions as a mere audiophile showpiece; if it's bad, it's really bad. Happily, Michael Stern chooses a tempo to open the work which ensures that nothing runs together, and he also shapes the music with uncommon attention to detail. Every crescendo is so well-caught that the drama is naturally heightened. The orchestra plays with total commitment and real power. The slower speeds never turn dull because so much energy is invested in every note. If you think that you don't care about the inner movements, check out the fabulous richness of the strings that open the Poco adagio, or the sheer accuracy of the third movement. But you aren't reading this for the inner movements. You want to know how the fabled Reference Recordings sound handles the Finale, right?

The experience is spectacular regardless of equipment. I've listened in a number of different ways already, and the overall effect is spine-tingling. The Kansas City Symphony contributes in a wholly positive way, refusing to be drowned by the formidable organ at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Jan Kraybill knows the instrument better than anyone, and her previous solo effort for Reference Recordings proved she's an excellent stewardess of the organ she takes care of. I won't spoil your listening with tiny details, but the closing pages are simply a joy. I'm not throwing away legendary versions under Paray, Munch, or Martinon, but I am certainly making room on my shelf for this thrilling sonic and musical experience.

MusicWeb International

This new Reference Recordings CD provides a fine opportunity to hear the qualities of the Julia Irene Kauffman organ Opus 3875 built in 2011 by Casavant Frères of Montréal. ...

The feature work is the Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’ from 1886, a commission by the Royal Philharmonic Society of London. Saint-Saëns, himself an organist at the Madeleine Church, Paris, knew what was required for such a work and conducted the première himself at the St James’s Hall, London ... In the Adagio – Allegro moderato Michael Stern’s well balanced opening soon increases in weight and volume. The efforts of the Kansas orchestra are thrilling. Stern engenders a sense of steely determination. The low growling entry of organ in the Poco adagio is notable and the dialogue between organ and strings is delightfully reflective. Conversely the skittering Scherzo is afforded ample amounts of engaging vitality. There is exhilaration in the celebrated FinaleMaestoso – Allegro when Kraybill erupts the weighty Casavant organ triumphantly creating a flood of vibrant colour....

Saint-Saëns composed his Introduction and Rondo capriccioso with the guidance of his friend, distinguished Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, the dedicatee. It's a staple of the violin repertoire and not surprisingly there are a considerable number of recordings. Concertmaster Noah Geller gives a spontaneous sounding and assured performance with a felicitous gypsy swagger. It’s hard to fault the sensitive support Geller receives from the KCS. ...

La muse et le poète for violin, cello ... one of the few examples of double concerto design ... The work is very much about mood. Its need for two soloists means that it is rarely programmed in the concert hall today. The compelling playing and agreeable string tone of concertmaster Noah Geller and cello principal Mark Gibbs spell romantic refinement. ...

Recording engineer Keith O. Johnson excels with his excellent sonics which are crystal clear and well balanced with plenty of presence. This beautifully produced release is a pleasure to own.


Another Fine Saint-Saëns Third, This Time From Kansas City

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

When it rains, it pours. This is the third recording of Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony in nearly as many months, and like the previous ones, it’s remarkably good. The Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern withstands comparison to any of the competition. ... This is an unusually vivacious and texturally transparent reading, recorded with welcome clarity in an acoustic that never permits detail to get obscured by excessive reverberation. The balance between organ and orchestra in the finale, even when everyone is blasting away, could not be more perfect. In the serene Adagio too, which flows with impressive poise, the soft tones of the organ add just the right touch of color to support the strings and solo woodwinds. In the scherzo, Stern keeps the rhythm taut, and he doesn’t drag out the quiet coda to the point where one’s patience begins to run thin. In the finale everyone really does pull out all of the stops, literally and figuratively, bringing the work to a thrilling conclusion.

The fillers are welcome, and not the usual stuff. Le muse et le poète is a rarely heard late tone poem with parts for solo violin and solo cello, more than ably taken by orchestra principals Noah Geller on violin and Mark Gibbs on cello. Geller also plays an excellent, sunny Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. And let’s not forget organist Jan Kraybill in the symphony. ... Audiophiles will want to hear this for the superb sonics, but the musical values are just as strong.

Classical Musical Sentinel

CD Review:  CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS - Symphony No. 3 "Organ" - Kansas City Symphony - Michael Stern (Conductor) - Jan Kraybill (Organ)

With all of the incredibly good extant recordings already available of the wonderful Symphony No. 3 "Organ" by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), any performers releasing a new recording of it should be ready and able to challenge the top contenders or otherwise stay home. Here are, in my opinion, a few pointers as to how it should be done.

1- Open the first movement with a broad tempo and a richness of tone foreshadowing the events to come.
2- When the slow movement begins, allow the sound of the organ and strings to slide into its deep harmonic waters and dissolve together to become one entity.
3- Bring out that movement's beautiful melody by means of expressive phrasing, balanced nuances and well controlled rubato.
4- And don't be shy or afraid to offend. Before the final movement begins, activate the pipe organ's plein-jeux so that the massive opening chord is not only heard, but also felt.
5- Give this movement all the pomp and majesty it begs for. It certainly rivals any of the best British regal marches.
6- Make sure the final chord is so powerful as to make anyone who hears it glad to be alive.
7- Never record the orchestra and organ in two different locations and then mix the two together at a later date. Dynamic balance compromises will have to be made and ruin the sense of occasion.
8- Last but not least, capture all this with a superbly engineered recording.

As for organist Jan Kraybill, conductor Michael Stern, the members of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and the recording engineers at Reference Recordings, they don't need to follow these tips. They already have all of this down and then some. Some have come very close, but I've never heard such a well-rounded account of this impressive symphonic work. Under Michael Stern's direction, the slow movement glows with expressive touches and the final movement blows everyone else out of the water. The impressive Casavant pipe organ which has 4 keyboards, 79 stops, 102 ranks, tracker action, and 5,548 pipes, the biggest of which weighs 960 pounds, certainly produces a hair-raising sound when it opens the final movement. Unsuspecting listeners beware: crank up the volume but brace yourself for a jolt. The only way to truly enjoy recordings like this one is to play them loud - the way a full orchestra and hefty pipe organ are meant to sound.

Included on this recording are Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra and La muse et le poète for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, both receiving the same level of musicianship and attention to detail given the main attraction. As if the symphony wasn't enough. They are the icing on the cake. Violinist Noah Geller and cellist Mark Gibbs are both members of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. They play these pieces so well and with so much expressive conviction, that until I read the booklet notes I assumed they were veterans of the stage and/or seasoned soloist performers.

Glorious music making reproduced with stupendous fidelity!

Organ Club Journal (U.K.)

CD review:  Organ Polychrome

We see few releases for Reference Recordings in the UK however this new release, RR133 caught my eye.  It's the first solo recording on a Casavant Freres 4/79 (102 ranks) organ in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts ... The player is Jan Kraybill, whose talents are superbly demonstrated with an all French programme ... A splendid disc obtainable in the UK.


CD review:  Organ Polychrome

... I appreciate her attention to the colors and to the range of possibilities of her instrument—impressively well captured by RR's recording and mastering engineer, Keith O. Johnson.... RR's sound is most impressive: clear and clean, with impressive though not extreme dynamic range (i.e., I could easily find a single setting that comfortably accommodated the loudest and quietest moments on the disc). ... Above all, the colors of the various ranks or voices are vividly distinguishable ... The booklet provides full organ specifications as well as Kraybill's excellent notes.

Performance:  4-1/2 stars

Enjoyment: 4-1/2 stars

Sound Quality:  5 stars

Pittsburgh Pipelines: Newsletter of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Guild of Organists

... Without a doubt, it was one of the most enjoyable organ recitals I have ever attended! I would guess that there were over 500 people in attendance...

... Although the respect they had for each other was obvious, neither Jan or Jack took themselves – or each other – too seriously! The give and take, along with facial expressions projected on large video screens, made for a fun afternoon. Those in attendance – including lots of families with school-aged children – heard wonderfully played music by two great musicians on two outstanding instruments in a wonderful space!


Featured recording

An enjoyable recital from Jan Kraybill, given on the stunning 2011 Casavant organ at the Kauffman Center ... Duruflé's early Op 2 Scherzo, the G minor Prelude and Fugue from Dupré's Op 7, and Alain's Deux Danses à Agni Yavishta all grab attention. Kraybill also makes a fine job of the magnificent opening Allegro from Widor's Sixth Symphony ... a highly worthwhile release.


Winner of the Christmas 2014 Tracker Organ CD of the Year

... a CD that could serve as a "goodwill ambassador": a goodwill ambassador of the organ to those who don't typically buy organ CDs or attend organ recitals; a goodwill ambassador of real pipes to those listeners more accustomed to electronic imitations; a goodwill ambassador of well-engineered tracker key actions to those who normally see no advantage in them. ...

Dr. Kraybill opened the recording with the Allegro movement from the Widor 6th Symphony, a strong, appealing, attention-grabbing opening indeed. She then gave the listener a chance to calm down with the world premiere of the Schmitt Priere (Prelude in G minor), Op.11, before venturing out of the comfort zone with two movements from a suite by Alain. ... My favorite single track from the whole album is the Guilmant Caprice in B-flat, in which Dr. Kraybill goes out of her way (and says so in the liner notes) to show off the tracker key action, and she also somehow manages an uncanny imitation of bells. The tracker nuances are also very clear in the three movements from the Vierne Opus 51. Overall, the program is appealing and ... downright fun ...

MusicWeb International


... The Allegro from Widor’s Organ Symphony No. 6 headlines this new album, which features Kansas City's Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant (2011). At the console of this magnificent 102-rank instrument is Jan Kraybill, who tackles Widor’s daunting structures with aplomb. Even at this early stage the organ’s tonal subtlety and range of colours are very much in evidence; whether Kraybill’s dissembling quietly or sallying forth her playing is always tasteful and proportionate. As for the recorded sound, so often the killer in collections such as this, it’s both full and forensic, with a phenomenal reach. These tummy-wobbling pedals, all the more thrilling for being judiciously used, will satisfy even the most jaded of organistas.

Goodness, this is a very promising start; after all that heat and heft Florent Schmitt’s Prière is a quiet oasis of pure loveliness. Small it may be, but it’s so gracefully formed. Jehan Alain’s two dances inspired by Agni Yavishta, the Hindu god of fire, are a perfect foil for what’s gone before. Kraybill teases out all the music’s sinuous rhythms and exotic flavours, and seasons the dish – lightly – with those stunning pedals. Joseph Bonnet’s Variations de Concert, a most accomplished Op. 1, is another well-chosen piece, for it demonstrates both the intimacy and agility of this fine instrument.

There’s nothing at all flashy or distracting about Kraybill’s performances; and what a pleasure that is, given the self-aggrandising showmanship one usually associates with such recitals. It’s not just the playing, for the clean, unfussy acoustic and the perfectly judged recording add immeasurably to one’s enjoyment of the music. And it just gets better. Maurice Duruflê’s elusive, Ariel-like Scherzo is a delight; Kraybill’s apt registrations and general keyboard wizardry turns her into something of a Prospero figure, very much in command of all that she surveys. This confluence of artistic and technical talents makes the Scherzo an ideal taster for those who wish to try before they buy.

Marcel Dupré is represented here by his youthfully conceived G minor Prélude et Fugue. Given his flamboyance as both a composer and a performer Duprê’s writing here seems remarkably restrained. Don’t be fooled, for the filigreed detail of the first part and the firm direction of the second confirm this as the work of a real pro. As always Kraybill gets the scale just right, so the work’s fugal pomp never sounds empty or overbearing. A quiet bravo is in order here, as it is after Franck’s Pièce héroïque. The latter's an organ staple that, like so many of its ilk, is apt to stale with repetition. Kraybill really freshens it up with her lithe, transparent playing; indeed, her finely shaped and projected account of the piece reminds me of Hans-Eberhard Roß, whose three-volume traversal of Franck’s organ music is mandatory listening for all Franckophiles.

As with Organ Polychrome those Roß recordings, played on a 1998 Goll, revitalise familiar repertoire in all sorts of ways. Throw in sympathetic engineering and the results are truly remarkable. That’s certainly true of Felix Guilmant’s Caprice in B flat, which at times appears to mimic the chug and honk of a fairground organ. This may suggest a degree of roughness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Kraybill's playing is always refined, and she brings out the music’s inner voices with ease and good humour. This is my favourite track; the music scampers to a delicious, seat-pinning finale that left me grinning like a village idiot.

Louis Vierne’s mellifluous Prélude, the first part of a work he wrote for his US concert tour in 1927, gets a buoyant outing here; the dark-toned Caprice balances grace and gravitas and the Intermezzo, with its ‘Boo!’ ending, is spookily done. What better way to end this marvellous recital than with Eugène Gigout’s Grand-Choeur dialogué? Grand it most certainly is; the recording’s fine sense of depth and breadth ensures the antiphonal character of the piece is conveyed with ear-pricking realism. And the joy that peals forth in the final seconds is a perfect metaphor for this recital as a whole; a triumph for all concerned.

Only once before have I encountered an organ recording worthy of the term 'a perfect storm’, and that was the Fuga/Kiviniemi Lakeuden Ristin urut; I didn’t think that would be supplanted any time soon, and now it has. The skill and good judgement of both organists is beyond question, as are the recording talents of Mika Koivusalo (Fuga) and Keith O. Johnson and his team (Reference Recordings). Frankly, these two albums blow all others into the proverbial weeds.

... the Organ Polychrome booklet is beautifully presented – it’s a model of common sense and clarity – and Kraybill’s succinct notes are a pleasure to read.

Pure magic; my store of enchanted objects has just increased by one.


The top requests and user ratings from Organlive.com for 2014 are out. Charlie Callahan, Stephen Tharp, Frederick Hohman, Alan Morrison, and Jan Kraybill were all among the stars on the list!

CNET magazine

A potpourri of the best music of 2014

[This wide-ranging list includes sixteen releases from Richard Reed Parry, the Rolling Stones, Marissa Nadler, and the Beatles, and more!]

Jan Kraybill, "Organ Polychrome"

Jan Kraybill recorded this album at a majestic organ, performing French works with rare skill.  This recording's uncompressed dynamics and deep, deep bass will test the limits of your woofers' output.  Some tracks are so quiet they're closer to ambient music -- lots of "space" in there. 

KC Metropolis

Four hands, two feet

Two exceptional musicians, Jack Ergo and Jan Kraybill, came together in a duel to have fun, amuse the audience, and showcase their talent on both the organ and piano.

Jack Ergo, piano, and Jan Kraybill, organ, competed in a fiery keyboard duel Sunday afternoon. Diverting from a “serious” concert, they entertained the audience of Community of Christ Auditorium with their exaggerated gestures, funny commentary, and splendid stage presence. The humorous program included a variety of pieces for solo organ, solo piano, both organ and piano, and four hands on either instrument. The audience decided who won the duel by an applause and popular vote through the number of donations and envelopes filled out for each musician. ...

... The next piece on the program was a set called “Seven Little Somethings,” which rotated between short solo organ and solo piano pieces. Kraybill began with J.S. Bach Prelude in B-flat Major from Eight Little Preludes and Fugues. There was an impressive section where she played only with the pedals, which she showed off by holding her hands up in the air. Ergo then played Chopin’s Prelude in C Major and began the piece by putting his foot up on the keyboard as a joke. ...

Keeping the joking mood, Kraybill joined Ergo on the piano for C. S. Theme and Variations for One Piano, Four Hands (chopsticks). This well-known, over-the-top piece has to be played dramatically to achieve the full effect. Their hilarious facial expressions and gestures created gusts of laughter as they tried pushing each other on the bench with Kraybill succeeding toward the end as they switched sides. Moving back to the organ, the next piece they played was Richard Wagner’s “Einsuz in die Gralsburg” from his last opera Parsifal. A break from laughing, Ergo told the audience for this piece to “let sound envelope you.” It is hard for the sound of the piano to compete with massive organ pipes, but he achieved a remarkable balance that mixed well with the sounds from the organ.

Returning to the light-hearted mood, the paired played the organ on an arrangement of the “Sabre Dance” from Khachaturian’s Gayane. Next, Kraybill played a flashy piece by Joseph Bonnet, Concert Variations, Op. 1. The beginning loud chord startled the audience and Ergo, as did the amazing pedal solo leading into a fiery ending. ...

Two jazzy and groovy pieces followed the flashy pieces: Johannes Matthias Michel’s Swing Five and Paul Desmond’s Take Five. The pair ended the program with P.D.Q. Bach’s arrangement of the famous Toccata in D minor by J.S. Bach, which he called Toccata et Fuga Obnoxia. Saving the best for last, they furiously competed with each other on the toccata theme, as well as the other funny and child-like tunes P.D.Q. Bach incorporated. A terrific performance, Kraybill and Ergo received a well-deserved applause. ...

Classical Music Sentinel

Organ Polychrome

In this day and age of bits and bytes, midi files, miniaturization, computerization, digital sound creation and manipulation, and everything synthetic and disposable, it certainly is comforting to know that magnificent pipe organs like this Casavant Frères Opus 3875, 2011 located in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, are still being built. ... Although new commissions from churches for liturgical use are few and far between, more are being designed and built for concert halls. This particular instrument features 4 keyboards, 79 stops, 102 ranks, tracker action, and 5,548 pipes, the biggest of which weighs 960 pounds. ...

On some of the tracks, my "good" speakers struggled with some of the louder 32' pipe notes generated by this organ, but if you have a good subwoofer, I'm sure you will be able to rattle your home's foundation now and then. For example, the Allegro from Symphony No. 6 in G minor by Charles-Marie Widor will run any sound system through the wringer. If you can play this one really loud without clipping your amplifier or melting your speakers, then you have an impressive system. All credit goes to the recording engineers at Reference Recordings for capturing every bit of air displacement this organ can produce.

This première solo recording of the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, features an all French menu which caters to all tastes. From the staunch conservatism of the Franck, to the modern voice of Jehan Alain, the whimsical and inventive Vierne, and the great power of the Gigout. It also includes the world première recording of the Prière from Prélude in G minor by Florent Schmitt, a piece that brings out this monstrous instrument's gentler, lyrical side. It's obvious that organist Jan Kraybill, who is the Organ Conservator at the Kauffman Center, knows this organ's capabilities very well, and as such matches each piece's character to the best combination of stops possible. I envy her position. Sitting at that console, in command of all that power, must feel like sitting on a rocket.


Wonderful instrument.  Jan Kraybill does justice to the organ at the Kauffman. Excellent choice of literature to show the many different stops available on this organ. Wonderful instrument...exceptionally fine organist.

Audiophile Audition

Organ Polychrome:  5 stars

A colorful and sonically-impressive 71 minutes with French organ works. ...

Jan Kraybill ... wrote the page of notes on each of the composers represented in this 14 track CD. They provide an aural and historical view of the importance of the French organ school of the period. ...

A complete list of the registrations of the Julia Irene Kauffman Organ appears in the note booklet, and Kraybill’s notes on each composer often end with a description of the construction and registrations of one of the works so that you can follow along while listening. Her playing is expressive in the quieter portions and pulls out all the stops when hitting some of the big orchestral-imitation passages in these colorful pieces. ...

Classical CD Choice

ORGAN POLYCHROME: THE FRENCH SCHOOL, Jan Kraybill/ Reference Recordings

This premier solo recording of French masterworks for the organ is something of a revelation, as much for the thoroughly individual character of the music as for the typically wide-ranging Reference Recordings sound. 


A superior artist with great musical prowess.  Jan is not only a great friend she is a masterful performer who has the chops of the most seasoned organ artists. Her playing is passionate and her technical proficiency is impressive. Jan is a great gift to music and especially to the organ world. Kansas City, MO is fortunately to have her in the city and our cultural lexicon.

Kansas City Star

CD reviews - Joyce DiDonato and Jan Kraybill

Reference Recordings brings the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts’ organ right into your living room with its new release, “Organ Polychrome.”

And with extraordinary organist Jan Kraybill at the keyboard, “Organ Polychrome” is, indeed, a multi-colored showstopper.

Subtitled “The French School,” the disc features a varied program of some of the greatest French organ composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. 19th century organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll made France the center of the organ universe, and Kraybill performs works by Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne that were written for Cavaille-Coll’s magnificent symphonic organs.

But it’s not all lush, over-the-top repertoire. Kraybill also performs Jehan Alain’s mystical “Deux Danses a Agni Yavishta” and Alexandre Guilmant’s delightful Caprice in B flat. There’s never a sense of sameness as you listen to the CD. It’s the sort of recording you’ll want to listen to over and over. I know I did.

Kraybill, one of Kansas City’s most respected and loved musicians, is the conservator of the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, and she knows how to make it purr like a kitten or roar like a lion.

And Reference Recordings’ 24-bit recording captures every detail. The sound is never muddled, and the subtle differences in colors are always clearly discerned. Even when Kraybill is putting the pedal to the metal, and the 5,548-pipe organ is going full bore, there’s a clarity that is thrilling.

This is a CD to give a person who claims he or she hates organ music.

“Organ Polychrome” will blow away any notion that organ music is lugubrious and fit only for funeral homes and horror films. As the motorcycle-riding Kraybill demonstrates, organ music can be as head-banging as Metallica and as charming and sweet as a morning chorus of songbirds.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/performing-arts/article2482722.html#storylink=cpy

Classical Candor

Organ Polychrome (HDCD review)

Can you really think of anyone you'd rather have make an organ record than Reference Recordings? Well, anyone you'd rather have making any recording than Reference Recordings. For over thirty years they've been producing some of the best audiophile recordings around, and their current release, Organ Polychrome: The French School, with organist Jan Kraybill is among their finest-sounding releases. ...

In Organ Polychrome: The French School, Ms. Kraybill plays music intended to show off all the power and glory of the Julia Irene Kauffman Organ. She does so splendidly; it is all quite effective. ...

Starting with the Widor number is like starting a concert with an overture. It's big, it's colorful, it grabs you by the throat. Ms. Kraybill doesn't overplay it, though, or make it sound too bombastic; it just works as a good curtain-raiser. Then, Ms. Kraybill follows the big Widor tune with a world-premiere recording from Schmitt. He wrote it around the turn of the twentieth century, and it's quite sweet and expressive. Indeed, Ms. Kraybill's playing is also sweet and expressive, robust when needed, sensitive at other times. Very entertaining.

And so it goes, with a variety of selections geared toward exhibiting all of the organ's many facets (and Ms. Kraybill's many performing talents). The delicate Alain piece is a special standout, with its vaguely Asian motifs and soft bass notes that wash over the listener like huge, warm waves at a beach. Then, too, Franck's well-known Piece heroique sounds strikingly handsome on this most-striking organ, producing a joyously successful result. And speaking of joy, the Guilmant track displays a wonderfully light, bouncy rhythm that's hard to dislike. Lastly, Ms. Kraybill goes out the way she came in, with a big, robust reading of the Gigout work that leaves the rafters rattling.

Producers Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin, and Marcia Gordon Martin and engineer Keith O. Johnson made the album in 24-bit HDCD for Reference Recordings at Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri in June 2013. Unlike the last few organ recordings I listened to, which were swimming in cavernous hall resonance, this one exhibits just enough reverberation to let us know we're in a concert hall and show off the room acoustics yet also emphasizes the detail and clarity of the organ. The instrument sounds rich, wide-ranging, realistically distanced, deep, full-throated, powerful, and lifelike. Of course, we also get the all-important bass so favored of organ fans; the organ gets down to room-rocking frequencies in select tracks. This is obviously a recording that organ fanciers will enjoy.

CD Choice - U.K.

MIRACULOUS METAMORPHOSES: HINDEMITH, PROKOFIEV, BARTOK, Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern Reference RR-132  It is clear that the programming and creative team behind the splendid label Reference Recordings (notably the legendary engineer Prof. Johnson) have a particular predilection for colourful and vivid orchestral music principally from first half of the 20th century, as evinced by this latest recording collecting three of the most dynamic and inventive scores of the era. Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony are on something of a roll in terms of recordings for the label, as this latest collection matches (in sheer energy and authority) earlier recordings, but the Bartok suite in particular is given a reading that points up all the barbarity and violence of the score – and few recordings match this one in terms of integrating the organ passages with the turbulent orchestral texture ...


Jan Kraybill's Super Bowl Concert XV was super, with a touch of the Olympics

One hundred and eleven million people watched the Super Bowl broadcast Sunday night. A little earlier, about a thousand people gathered in the Auditorium in Independence to hear Jan Kraybill's Super Bowl Concert XV; the latter group experienced a better show. ...

Jan made good use of the antiphonal organ for an auditory extravaganza to start the program in grand style. She showed wonderment of the power of the 113 ranks ( 6,334 pipes) Aeolian-Skinner Organ as she acknowledged the extended applause for this work, she uttered, "Isn't that incredible?" She brought the music out, but it would not have been possible without the magnificent instrument. ...

[Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543:]  From Bach's early period, it requires active feet and fingers, managed with ease by Dr. Kraybill. ...

[Henri Mulet's Tu es Petra:] The powerful piece was played with authority and musicality, befitting both the music and the message.


Pipedreams radio program #1403, "Conventional Wisdom: Minnesota Memories" (air date January 20, 2014)

... her Super Bowl Sunday annual recital ... [is] usually a real crowd-pleaser.

Jan Kraybill played a Prelude, a Caprice, and an Intermezzo, all from the first book of Vierne's Fantasy Pieces, a real exploration of some of the sweet and pungent sound combinations of the 4-manual, 70-rank organ by Charles Hendrickson at Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata, MN, which is a suburban community to the west of Minneapolis.  Some more boisterous registrations on that instrument were called for by Leo Sowerby in the jazzy middle movement of his Symphony in G, which he titles "Fast and Sinister."  Quite a title.  Well, Jan Kraybill, our soloist, is anything but sinister, but she's plenty fast enough when she needs to be.  And while perhaps you wouldn't imagine it, just by looking at her photo, this youthful grandmother is a Hog-rider, which is to say, she's got a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Well, think about that while Jan Kraybill plays Leo Sowerby in concert.

Kansas City Star

KC Symphony takes a musical trip to Paris

Guest conductor Bernard Labadie led the Kansas City Symphony through a trio of pieces composed and premiered in Paris ...

Gabriel Fauré intended for his "Requiem" to express mercy instead of damnation.  It was poignant and subtle, especially the drastic pianissimos, despite the forces of full orchestra, organ and 150-plus person Kansas City Symphony Chorus. ... Brass was used sparingly to brilliant effect, and the organ, performed by Jan Kraybill, offered fluid accompaniment.


Rejoice in the Requiem

The Kansas City Chorale and organist Jan Kraybill combined their considerable talents for an engaging concert of works for choir and organ in Helzberg Hall.

... The stunning selections from Arvo Pärt, Benjamin Britten, and Maurice Duruflé showcased the lush tone of the ensemble and a few notable soloists. With Jan Kraybill on the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, it was a lovely end to their 2012–13 season.

Kraybill opened with Marcel Dupré’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3. The work is a cheeky scherzando played at a soft dynamic until the fugue begins. Kraybill navigated the motorhythmic passages with ease and the “Marcel Dupré, Marcel Dupré, what did you play, what did you play?” tune was cast as a drunken pirate jig in the fugue. The final cadence was expertly paced and used the full organ to great effect.

Structurally, Arvo Pärt’s Beatitudes echoed the Dupré. Both works start infinitesimally softly and grow to grand proportions. Pärt’s music is deceptively simple to listen to but horrendously difficult to perform. ... As the piece grew in complexity and volume, the singers turned to fully face the audience, which let the sopranos’ sound rip through the powerful organ on the final stanza. Kraybill then quickly backed off the swell pedal as the flurry of notes ascended into the heavens. It was a magical moment. ...

As it is Britten’s centenary, Kansas City and its surrounding areas have heard his Rejoice in the Lamb at least four times by my count. At least it is a charming—and at times, silly—selection that, when performed well, is a revelation. The gently lilting, layered “Hallelujah” sections hearkened back to the quiet, diaphanous moments in the Durpé and Pärt. These were goosebump moments. Sarah Tannehill sang with the utmost sincerity (and skill) extolling the virtues of the cat Joffrey as Kraybill played the keyboards as if the feline were scampering across them. ...

Duruflé’s Requiem was the centerpiece of the evening. ... Julia Scozzafava’s Pie Jesu was the highlight of the evening. The movement’s line is insanely long and is exceedingly difficult to phrase. Scozzafava was able to make sense out of it however, taking the audience with her as she pled with Jesus to grant them rest in her sonorous, thick-piled velvet mezzo. Her voice is a big one and it seemed as if she were singing at about 80% of her potential so as to stay within the continuity of the work; it was a very musical and sensitive choice. The final two movements, Libera me and In Paradisum were sensuous and strong points chorally. ...

Kansas City Star

KC Chorale offers message of comfort

... This multiple Grammy Award-winning ensemble, conducted by artistic director Charles Bruffy, ended its 31st season on Friday evening with a concert in Helzberg Hall.

The performance utilized the hall's magnificent Casavant organ.  Jan Kraybill, who is conservator of the instrument and therefore particularly familiar with it, opened with Marcel Dupré's virtuosic solo Prelude and Fugue in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3. 

The work began pianissimo, with muted yet continuously complex lines under a sustained melody played on the pedals.  There was a hint of foreboding density, and she unleashed the pipes during the fugue, ending with an awesome final cadence. ...

Independence Examiner

Grammy winning Kansas City Chorale hits the highs in season finale at Kauffman

Friday, May 24, 2013 was a big night at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. In a program of all 20th Century music, organ and choir dazzled as they presented endearing music to all but the most fuddy-duddy ears.

Dr. Jan Kraybill kicked off the program with an exiting rendering of Prelude and Fugue in G Minor by Marcel Dupré on the Casavant Frères organ ... it was just a flabbergasting presentation of music of the most difficulty and beauty.  ...

Kansas City Star

Super Kraybill

"Every year on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan Kraybill, principal organist at Community of Christ in Independence, gives a pre-game organ recital ....  Beyonce', eat your heart out."

Kansas City Star

Notes of Change

"Downtown can now boast of its newly constructed Casavant pipe organ built for Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  Artists around the country are asking to play it.  This month Jan Kraybill, the principal organist at the Community of Christ temple in Independence -- home of another Casavant -- performed a recital in Helzberg Hall that thrilled her colleagues and attracted more than 1,000 listeners."

Kansas City Star

KC's choice for organ recital

"As principal organist at the Community of Christ International Headquarters in Independence, Jan Kraybill has been dazzling music lovers for years with recitals on the mighty Aeolian Skinner organ in the Community of Christ auditorium and the Casavant organ in the congregation's temple."


PREVIEW: Spring 2013 Don's Classical Picks

In the world of choral music, the most anticipated event of the spring will be the triple-threat performance of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem on May 24, featuring the Kansas City Chorale along with Helzberg Hall’s magnificent Casavant organ and one of this writer’s favorite local organists, the talented Jan Kraybill.

KC Metropolis

Jan Kraybill lent her organ expertise to the ensemble throughout the performance, but her rendering of “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” on the Casavant organ was varied and impressive as the simple melody was augmented and harmonically shifted until clustered chords and intense pedaling brought the work to a sizzling close.

Kansas City Star

"The Fine Arts Chorale and organist Jan Kraybill is a match made in heaven.  The majestic sound of the organ provides a sublime counterpoint to the richly textured voices of the Fine Arts Chorale directed by Terri Teal."

Kansas City Star

"... what will really make this concert special is Jan Kraybill, who will be soloist for George Frideric Handel's Organ Concerto No. 2."

The Independent

The Big 12:  Top Moments in KC Performing Arts for 2011

This year will go down in history as a milestone in Kansas City's performing arts life, as the opening of the Kauffman Center has spurred all of our local arts groups to new heights.  Here are a few of my favorite moments of the year, listed in chronological order ....

Bachathon, sponsored by The Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. If you’re going to devote a whole afternoon to the music of one composer, it might as well be the greatest who ever lived. The AGO has been hosting this for 32 years (!), and it’s almost always a highlight of the concert season. Especially memorable this year was Jan Kraybill’s bracing performance of the “St. Anne” Fugue, one of the most amazing displays of virtuosic musicianship I have heard in Kansas City.

KC Metropolis

Magical Musical Mix

Take a series of plainchant holiday tunes, perform them as they have been interpreted by composers over the ages (progressing from older to newer), and spice with a few interspersed pieces of Christmas-themed organ music by one of Kansas City’s supreme organists. Mix well and serve to an enthusiastic audience. The Fine Arts Chorale and Jan Kraybill did just that with their annual holiday concert.

Terri Teal of the Fine Arts Chorale has this recipe honed, and used it with brilliant effect in the December 10 concert of the Chorale, called “Celebrate the Holidays with Jan Kraybill.” Featuring Kraybill, the fine organist who was profiled in the last issue of KCMetropolis.org, the concert was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable holiday outings in this reviewer’s experience. The concert successfully avoided the saccharine sweetness of all too many Christmas season outings which turn into familiar songfests and which underutilize the more sophisticated talents of their performers.

In other words, this was one holiday concert that didn’t compromise the ensemble’s standards, but displayed a brilliant and sensitive musicality, presented rarely heard but transcendently beautiful selections, and still offered enough of a toe-tapping good time to please any audience member.

Kraybill, at the fine Visitation Church pipe organ, played a series of organ works, mostly of the theme and variations type, by composers ranging from Bach to Brahms to contemporary composer Craig Phillips. Then, between the organ selections, Teal’s 23-voiced unaccompanied vocal ensemble performed a series of interrelated numbers, each series based upon a popular Christmas music tune, exploring the theme as arranged by composers whose birth dates ranged from 1550 to 1972.


The program’s second half began with a splendid performance by Kraybill of Bach’s canonic variations on “Von Himmel Hoch,” and then with the Chorale’s ancient-to-modern progression of arrangements based on “Lo, How a Rose.”



Jan Kraybill, as always, was superb at the organ and confirmed her status as one of the jewels of the Kansas City music scene.


Amidst the hymnfests and perhaps overly done repetitions of familiar works which are ever present during the Christmas season, this concert represented one of the most elegant and carefully prepared programs this reviewer has heard. Hats off to Teal, Kraybill, and the dedicated members of the Fine Arts Chorale.

Kansas City Star

... one of this area's finest organists ...

KC Metropolis

Movers, Shakers, Stalwarts: Jan Kraybill

"... one of Kansas City's leading organists."  (see entire article here)

Kansas City Star

Pipes and Voices" at Community of Christ

The choir is accompanied by the outstanding Jan Kraybill playing the Temple's glorious Casavant organ.

KC Metropolis

The 2011–12 season launches in a few short weeks and with it some of the most exciting events ever to grace the stages of Kansas City. 2010–11 was no slouch though with many ensembles and artists leaving lasting impressions.  Here are Editor-in-Chief Lee Hartman’s favorites of 2010–11.

1.      Fine Arts Chorale with Jan Kraybill: Holiday Concert  A brainy and beautiful celebration, Terri Teal’s Fine Arts Chorale with organist Jan Kraybill showcased there is no need to pander or water down your product just because it’s the holidays. Kraybill’s performance of Marcel Dupré’s Variations sur un Noël, Op. 20 was the crown jewel of the concert and the season. (December 2010)

Newsletter of the Lincoln (NE) chapter of the AGO

I was especially impressed with the organ recitals played by the Region VI Councillor, Dr. Jan Kraybill, and a young American organist, Christopher Houlihan. (after recital for AGO regional convention, June 21, 2011)

The Independent

Bachathon was a quite a treat this year. The annual five-hour marathon of the master’s works, sponsored by the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists, included fine performances by local organists, choirs and vocal soloists. ... The best was saved for last: Jan Kraybill demonstrated her extraordinary virtuosity at the keyboard in four chorales and, most famously, the “St. Anne” Fugue. She began the latter at a tempo that seemed downright suicidal, but managed to hack through the thickets of one of Bach’s most complex works with nary a hitch. Her remarkable feat brought the audience to its collective feet.

Kansas City Star

Pre-Super Bowl Concert

Tonight in Texas it might be Super Bowl XLV, but for lovers of big, powerful organ music, this afternoon in Independence it is Super Bowl XII. 

... For her Super Bowl recitals, Kraybill ... always performs rousing works designed to get the blood flowing.  This year she's chosen an especially dramatic program of music ... the thrilling centerpiece is Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."  Hearing "The Great Gate of Kiev" on the auditorium's mighty organ could very well make the big game seem anticlimactic.

Independence Examiner

Super Bowl Sunday Tradition Continues for Church Organist

... even those who are less drawn to the pipe organ will come away from Kraybill's recitals as fans of the instrument.  "The music is always what we call listener-friendly.  There are pieces that will challenge the listener; but you can be darned certain that there will be pieces that he or she will like. ... Overall, that same person will like the whole program.  With Jan's programming, there is always something interesting, and you can be sure that it will be well-played."  (Quoting John Schaefer)

KC Metropolis

Kraybill’s outstanding playing on the superb Community of Christ Casavant organ is always a treat for the senses.

Kansas City Star

A Holiday Sample of Everything

Music of the season comes in all shapes and sizes.  The Kansas City Symphony Chamber Players presented a program ... that had something for everyone Friday at Visitation Church.

... Organist Jan Kraybill played [Handel's Organ Concerto in F, Op. 4, No. 4] with taste and elegance, employing well-chosen registrations alternating flute-like and reedy stops.  In addition, she deftly negotiated Handel's rapid and technically challenging passages.

KC Metropolis

Patchwork holiday re-imagined

December is a time when most musical organizations take a breather and focus on lighter holiday fare. The Fine Arts Chorale bucked that trend with best choral programming I have had the good fortune to hear in the past couple of years. The concept was simple: take a multi-versed melody or chant, find that same tune in other works, shift seamlessly between composers and across time periods on different verses, and end with a coda performed on the organ. Repeat this process four times. In doing so, the Fine Arts Chorale, under the capable direction of Terri Teal with organist Janet Kraybill, treated the robust audience for Saturday night’s performance at Grace and Holy Trinity to a splendid meta-suite of works based on “Lo, How a rose,” “Conditor alme siderum,” “Divinum mysterium,” and “In dulci jubilo.”

... Kraybill’s codas were impeccable from the melting half-steps in Brahms’ Op. 122, No. 8, to the tasteful tremulant in Craig Phillips’ harmonization of “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” to the tongue-in-cheek dissonances of Norman Dello Joio’s “In dulci jubilo.”

After the intermission Kraybill wowed once again with Marcel Dupré’s Variations sur un Noël, Op. 20. The set of ten variations on the French carol “Noël nouvelet” left me shaking my head at Kraybill’s sheer audacity and masterful performance. This was a thorny, challenging work for audience and performer alike and I treasured every nuance-soaked second, especially those in the fourth, fifth, and tenth variations. The lasting, thunderous, whooping applause was deserved.

Kansas City Star

... one of the region's finest organists.

Independence Examiner

"She is gifted with her ability to express ideas and opinions; plus, she has a very warm, outgoing personality.  I think for any performer, they have to have a personality that wants to reach out to audiences of people; there has to be this warm, receptive attitude.  Every gifted performer I've known has been that way.  Instead of communicating with words, they are communicating with music.  She certainly has that skill."  (quoting John Obetz)


...Jan Kraybill, the superb Community of Christ organist...


Kraybill combines artistry and passion in organ's 50th anniversary recital

On Friday, November 6, [2009,] about 1,000 people made the pilgrimage to the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence to hear Principal Organist and Director of Music Jan Kraybill perform a recital that was 50 years in the making - and well worth the wait. ... One of them was overheard to comment that Kraybill gave an even more exciting and perfect performance than that of the great Catharine Crozier. ... Repeating the same concert program as Crozier 50 years ago, Kraybill delivered a compelling interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue, BWV 582. ... well-paced deliberation ... excellent variety in tonal timbre and dynamic contrast ... warm energy ... gripping artistry ... It brought down the house. ... So many organists are technically proficient. Kraybill hurdled the technical demands seemingly effortlessly and also expressed [Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm's] complex range of musical nuance with brilliant command. ... The program ended on a high note with the same virtuosic encore piece that Crozier presented ... the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3, by Marcel Dupré. ... Bravo! to Dr. Kraybill, who not only delivered an artistically stellar interpretation, but who also executed its double pedal tones flawlessly ... The audience rewarded the success of her performance with an immediate standing ovation.



Over 300 people were present to hear Jan Kraybill’s 10th annual Super Bowl Sunday organ recital at the Community of Christ Auditorium on February 1st. Dr. Kraybill is a superb organist technically and musically; her programming is extraordinarily imaginative ... She began her recital with the number one requested work, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. She made the work a fresh and exciting experience by playing with considerable propulsion and by making use of the organ’s many divisions in antiphony. Marcel Dupre’s Prelude and Fugue in G Minor was the work requested by many organists; especially impressive was the pedal work, including perfectly executed four voice chords.  As with all that she did, her playing was effortless. The Auditorium had a variety of television cameras around the room, so that it was possible to watch the playing of the feet, the manual work from overhead, and, especially, head shots of Dr. Kraybill showing her having a grand time!

CD review: The Diapason

Review of CD: Two by 2: Two Organ Symphonies on Two Magnificent Organs.

Two of the Midwest’s largest and best-known pipe organs are located ... at Community of Christ International Headquarters in Independence, MO.  ...  This is Kraybill’s first solo organ recording in which she firmly establishes herself as one of this country’s up-and-coming organists. ...

... With so many commercial recordings of the Widor Fifth Symphony available, the majority of which were recorded in France on French organs, one might ask what Kraybill’s recording brings to the table that help it distinguish itself. The short answer is--it brings everything. All aspects of Kraybill’s Widor performance are just right--musical playing, well-chosen tempi, adherence to the composer’s specified registration indications, fine organ well-suited to the music, and reverberant acoustic. This reviewer’s favorite moment in the entire recording is the recapitulation section of the first movement, where the full organ resources of the Casavant are nothing short of stunning, and combined with Kraybill’s musicianship and drive, leave indelible impressions of majesty and awe that the listener will not soon forget. The other movements, including the famous Toccata all receive secure, assured performances that highlight Kraybill’s musical playing and some beautiful sounds on the Casavant, such as a lovely Hautbois, a soaring Flûte harmonique, lush strings, a warm panalopy of fonds d’orgue, and a fiery, full Swell division. ...

Kraybill has elected to record on the Auditorium organ what perhaps many consider is the most monumental organ work ever written by an American composer--Leo Sowerby’s Symphony in G Major. ... only six organists, including Kraybill, have ever recorded the complete Symphony in G Major since its conception during the years 1930-31 ...  The musicality and drive that Kraybill exhibits in the Widor continue in abundance in her reading of the Sowerby Symphony. She traverses the expansive first movement with ease and élan, building to a powerful, scintillating climax and then easing gently to the concluding measures, which showcase Aeolian-Skinner signature strings with the 32’ Pedal Principal providing gentle undergirth. The late professor Robert Rayfield of Indiana University, a former Sowerby student, wryly suggested the Symphony’s second movement, Fast and Sinister, is fast for the listener and sinister for the performer. Kraybill navigates it with acrobatic assurance, maintaining an exciting tempo and firm pacing throughout. ... Kraybill opens the concluding Passacaglia with quiet conviction, building the drama and excitement of this large passacaglia to its monumental conclusion using the Auditorium organ’s full resources with creativity and good taste.

... This reviewer highly recommends this recording ... [It] provides the listener with musical, introspective, and exciting performances on two exceptional organs. One can only hope that Kraybill’s future recording projects will be as successful as this one as she continues to share her conviction and love of the organ and its literature so successfully and convincingly.

The Herald

... For Jan, organ music should be accessible to everyone. The Super Bowl Sunday concerts, as well as the regular half-hour demonstration recitals offered by staff organists and the guest-artist concerts provide a way of connecting with old and young, musicians and non-musicians, and members of both the church and the fine arts communities.

The American Organist

The contemporary Wayzata Community Church (UCC) was the venue for Jan Kraybill’s stunning recital ...  The program comprised three works, the Bach partita, Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig, BWV 768; selections from Vierne’s Pièces de Fantaisie, Opus 51; and, the second and third movements from Sowerby’s Symphony in G. Kraybill’s enthusiastic Bach playing had clarity not obscured by the odd registrations or tempos often heard on such large instruments in lesser hands. ... each [variation] had a transparency and sparkle that spoke to her global vision of the set without ever letting virtuosity overshadow musicality. ... Kraybill further demonstrated her mastery of this music (and instrument) in the wide range of dynamics [in the Vierne] ... a very accessible performance of the Sowerby Symphony in G. The frantic Fast & Sinister (II) was that and more! Kraybill’s virtuosic pedal work was on display in both this and the closing Passacaglia. Her sensitive registrations contributed to the atmospheric and organic character of this rarely-performed piece. Kraybill’s recent recording of this piece (with Widor’s Symphony No. 5) is an important addition to the limited list of available complete recordings (including William Whitehead’s and Catharine Crozier’s).

The Herald

... Jan Kraybill, as principal organist and director of music for Community of Christ, performed at the American Guild of Organists National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in June. This biennial convention features the world's finest organists in recitals. John Obetz, organist emeritus for Community of Christ, was in attendance. "Without a doubt the performance was magical," Obetz said. "It [playing in a national convention recital] is a pinnacle moment for any organist."

The American Organist

... a polished and convincing rendition of Widor's entire Fifth Symphony ...  (review of convention recital)

Leoti Standard

Genius spoke to genius through the medium of organ music Sunday afternoon at the United Methodist Church in Leoti [KS].  Jan Kraybill, Colby native, not only explained the humor, the depth, the musical rudiments in the compositions of musical masters Bach and Mozart ... Kraybill stepped into that river stream of creativity, which transcends the ordinary.  She carried the audience with her through a corridor in time recreating the individual personalities of each composer with her own magnificent talent.

Independence Examiner

Dr. Jan Kraybill exhibited exceptional skills as an organist in the Super Bowl Organ concert, performed Sunday afternoon on the great Aeolian-Skinner organ in the Community of Christ Auditorium.  Playing before an appreciative audience. ... Kraybill played through seven organ masterpieces, which brought a standing ovation and an encore. ... It was during Liszt's Mephisto Waltz that she especially displayed her master of the great organ with its 6,000 pipes, which has placed her among the foremost organists in the country.